I was once an atheist. I believed in the science I was taught in high school and college. I didn't give God a serious thought, hardly a thought at all until life began to strangle me. Actually there was nothing in my life to make it worth looking forward to another minute. Maybe you've been there.
But before I engage in theological debate. Two things: For the record, I was inspired to add to a previous blog after reading one by Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D. And two, I thought I would share a story that has been circulating the Internet for years-- I still makes me chuckle.
THE BEAR AND THE ATHEIST
An atheist was walking through the woods. "What majestic trees"! 'What powerful rivers"! "What beautiful animals"! He said to himself.
As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charge towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him. He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. He tripped, falling on the ground. As he rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him. At that instant the Atheist cried out, "Oh my God!"
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.
As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. "You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don't exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident." "Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer"?
The atheist looked directly into the light, "It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps you could make the BEAR a Christian?"
"Very Well," said the voice.
The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head & spoke:
"Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen."
I know there are no intellectually convincing arguments for God-- if there are, they usually appeal to the intellect and possibly the emotions for a time. Then, when things are looking up, those thoughts become suspect. Jesus talked about the seed that falls on hard soil-- a seed that is unable to take root. The comprehension of God can only come through faith-- but not faith in thin air, it must have substance. Sometimes meditating on God "stuff," actually provides substance. Possibly you never tried it, I don't know.
Are you willing to take a few minutes and think about God differently? I will quote a few versus so that you can see where these "ideas" are coming from. But you'll need to think them though, and see if they connect with your faith, or lack thereof.
God has revealed Himself through nature; the created order.
Psalm 19:1-6 “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”
The glory of God should be evident in all that He has made.
Romans 1:18-21 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
We should be able to stop right here, and take a look at the majestic Rockies, the sunset over the Outback, the roar of Niagara Falls, the beauty of the New England Seacoast, the intensity of foliage season, a smiling baby, the soothing sound of ocean waves, the warmth of the tropics both near and far, a gentle summer breeze, the taste of sweet lemonade, the smell of our favorite flowers or the architecture of a snowflake, and be totally amazed -- amazed enough to see that it is not random. And then we add to that the talent of mere humans that have done the extraordinary-- composing music, dancing, painting, writing or playing sports. At some point don't you ever ask yourself, how is this possible?
Unfortunately, for some strange reason-- maybe the theory of evolution and the Big Bang theory; science that seems to make sense, clouds our thinking. The result, so many living in doubt. Conversely, this testimony of God's splendor and majesty; His creative genius should be so powerful that no person should be able to claim that he or she knows nothing about God. But that is not the case, is it?
When we look behind that scenes at the His providence, God reveals Himself through His moment-by-moment control of the world. I know it doesn't seem possible when there are wars, rumors of wars, financial crisis, earthquakes, and tragedies like 9/11. How easy it is to accept the rising of the sun, the rhythm of the tides, the progression of the seasons, the awe of our solar system and the magical intrigue of the astrological world beyond our galaxy as the peaceful resolution of violent cosmic activity. How can that be so unintelligible?
God’s providence should be seen in His provision of sunshine and rain (Matt. 5:45), His provision of food, air, and joy of His creation (Acts 14:15-17). And God's ability to raise up and remove the rulers of this world (Daniel 2:21) is supreme providence. Quietly, God manifests himself throughout history. Have you noticed? Do you want to?
The survival of the nation Israel is a perfect example of God’s providence in action. Even more amazing is that through Jesus and the prophets of Israel, it was written decades, centuries, and in some cases millenniums before the events took place. Care to see the fulfilled prophecies concerning Israel and Jesus, the Messiah. Click HERE for 100 of them.
If you watch the news on a regular basis, you probably won't believe that God has reveals Himself to us through an internal sense of right and wrong. Romans 2:14-15 the Law of God is “written in their [your] hearts.” The barometer of our soul is meant to alert us to the laws of the God's Kingdom. However; this still small voice is easily drowned out by the onslaught of activities we so easily find ourselves involved in; addictions of every kind, soulish damage from abuse and various other forms of carnal and spiritual destruction we engage in (sin). Amazingly, in spite of everything that we do to insulate ourselves from this internal oracle, God still pursues us and can provide a moment of clarity if we let Him.
Because God is supernatural, we can't glean everything that we need to know from the natural realm. The supernatural realm is as active as the natural realm-- it is here that God and His angels, as well Satan and his not so merry band of demons manifest their unseen powers.
When supernatural power (of God) is manifest in a natural way, this is what theologians call a theophany. (Sorry, I just can't help myself!) Some examples of these would be the transfiguration (Matt 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36), the burning bush that Moses found in the desert (Ex 3:1-4:17), the pillars of clouds and fire (Ex 13:20-14:4) and various prophetic signs describe within the pages of the Bible-- some historical and others to come.
It is pretty well documented that Satan manifests himself in natural ways too. The snakes in Pharaoh's court (Ex 4:3, 7:10-13) and the Demoniac at Gadara (Mark 5:1-20 Matt 8:28, Luke 8:26) to name a few.
I realize that these signs are reasonably rare -- well in America. None the less, there are many documented theophanies over the centuries. Unfortunately we have many more TV shows about the paranormal and psychics than we do about the miraculous power of God manifest through His church. Why do you think that is, church?
If we are to believe in God, begin the journey of understanding Him, His ways, His purposes, His sovereignty and to see Him at work in our lives, we need to see how He might communicate with us. In the continuum ranging from natural to supernatural shown here, is a list of ways, by faith, we can begin or deepen a relationship with the Creator of the universe.
- 1 The scriptures - The infallible guide to Christianity. There is no other authoritative text.
- 2 His people - As God assembles his saints locally and regionally, they have a voice. Hopefully it is Him.
- 3 Your circumstances - Because God knew you before your were born, He will continually try to set up circumstances that bring you closer to Him.
- 4 The internal audible voice (sense or feeling - direct revelation) - often during prayer or during times of direct ministry. Revelatory utterances from on High: for the edification of the church and sometimes individuals.
- 5 Tongues and interpretations, words of wisdom, knowledge and faith (internal revelation).
- 6 Spiritual Song, both vocal an instrumental (internal revelation) - a form of prophecy
- 7 Dreams and interpretations (internal revelation) - a form of prophecy
- 8 Prophets (internal/external revelation)
- 9 Angels (direct revelation) - Generally reserved for significant information to be brought to earth.
- 10 His audible voice (direct revelation) - Generally reserved for significant information to be brought to earth.
- 11 Sermons and books (biblically based of course)
- 12 The beauty of creation
- 13 My blog ;o]
And of course, the life and ministry of Jesus Himself described here by Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D.
Jesus Christ As great as the previous forms of revelation were, the greatest form of revelation took place with the person of Jesus Christ. As Heb. 11:1-2 states, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb. 11:1-2). Jesus Christ, the primary manifestation of God, reveals many things:
a. John 1:1, 1:13 He is the "Word" because He is the complete revelation of the Father.
b. John 1:18 He reveals what the Father is like.
c. John 5:36-37 He reveals the Father’s compassion.
d. John 6:63; 14:10 He reveals that the Father gives eternal life through the Son.
e. Matthew 11:27 He reveals who will know the Father.
Excerpt taken from http://www.theologicalstudies.org